(AFP) – Fresh protests against poor economic conditions in southern Iraq have left at least one person killed bringing the total number of fatalities in two weeks of unrest that has shaken the country to nine.
The incident took place on Friday when a crowd targeted the headquarters of a paramilitary group in the city of Diwaniyah, the capital of al-Qadisiyah Province.
The man killed was aged around 20 and died after being shot by a security guard, according to reports by the local media. Two people were also wounded when people threw bricks and stones at the headquarters.
Others killed during previous protests are believed to have been shot by unknown assailants, according to media reports. The Iraqi government has blamed “vandals” which it has accused of infiltrating the protests.
Meanwhile, thousands rallied elsewhere in the south as well as in capital Baghdad.
As was the case with previous rallies, the protesters chanted slogans against rampant corruption, unemployment, high prices, power cuts and a lack of clean water.
In Baghdad, the crowds were dispersed by water cannon and tear gas as they headed towards the fortified Green Zone, a high-security neighborhood where the government is headquartered.
In the southern oil hub of Basra where the demonstrations started around two weeks ago, some 3,000 protested near the headquarters of the provincial government.
Social media has been unavailable for nearly a week and the internet was cut for two days from last Saturday, which authorities claimed was due to maintenance work, according to a report by AFP.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who visited Basra soon after the protests erupted in the city, has promised that his government would fund electricity and water projects there.
Protests first erupted in Basra on July 8.
Basra is an important hub for oil exports, which account for over 95 percent of Iraq’s government revenues. Long neglected, the city is one of the few cities in the Middle East without an effective water treatment system. State officials blame a public funding crisis caused by years of low oil prices.
Since the unrest erupted, demonstrators have vented their anger at several major oilfields.
Iraqi officials, however, stressed that the protests have not affected production or export operations in the OPEC member country.
The demonstrators have also previously attacked provincial government buildings, the local headquarters of political parties, and an airport in the holy city of Najaf.
The protests over basic services come at a sensitive time, as Iraqi political factions are trying to form a coalition government following the May 12 parliamentary elections.